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High Anxiety: Read a Sample Chapter from Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

July 25, 2018

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From the outside, through the windows of their glass-wrapped, beautifully designed home, Suzette seems like a woman who has it all. There’s her handsome Swedish husband, a talented architect with a hipster beard and their daughter, seven-year-old Hanna who has the face of an angel and is fiercely intelligent.

Just one small blemish on this picture-perfect family – Hanna is plotting to murder her mother.

Hanna also refuses to speak, communicating instead with signals and hand actions. At the outset of Baby Teeth, her parents are having her tested for every disease known to mankind in the hope if they can find a disease, they can find a remedy. But there is nothing wrong with Hanna – physically.

Heartbreak and frustration at not being able to help their adored, only child, let alone find out exactly what’s wrong, builds. But this is nothing compared to the events about to unravel in this unnerving tale that takes the idea of a devious, deeply damaged child to insane new heights.

Baby Teeth has been compared to the movie The Omen by Entertainment Weekly, but Hanna’s story is far more chilling and interesting than that of Damien who simply had a bad case of satanic possession. Hanna’s particular brand of evil is known as childhood psychopathy, but it’s as much a story of that as it is a portrait of a woman and a marriage in crisis.

At the heart of Hanna’s fiendishly clever and cunning campaign to rid herself of ‘mommy’ is her desire to have her beloved ‘daddy’ all to herself.

The trouble for Suzette, who is home schooling Hanna, is that the child only ever launches her vicious attacks when ‘daddy’ is at work. At home he only ever sees a loving and affectionate Hanna. She’s the arch manipulator. This makes him question whether perhaps Suzette’s allegations about Hanna’s increasing malice are exaggerated.

To add to Suzette’s vulnerability, she suffers from an auto-immune disease and a bad dose of guilt. Her own mother was careless and cold, and she’s fearful she may be turning into her mother. Is she at fault? Is it she who is really going mad? How can she possibly want the child she loves to make a slip and show her true self to her husband? As their marriage grows increasingly strained – he’s disbelieving at first, she’s wracked with fear and self-doubt – your perceptions of the couple and sympathies shift constantly.

In the meanwhile, the reader is privy to Hanna’s thoughts as she wages war against ‘mommy.’ We know her plans. We know when she’s about to up the stakes. We know what’s coming. They don’t, which gives Baby Teeth a sense of increasing dread, and the reader a dose of high anxiety. How will it end? Who will survive?

No spoilers here, except to say this kind of domestic drama may not be to everyone’s taste, but if your nerves are good and this kind of creepy thriller is your thing, you will love Baby Teeth.

About The Author

ZOJE STAGE is a writer and former filmmaker. She was a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation of the Arts and a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Baby Teeth is her first novel.

Purchase a copy of Baby Teeth here 

Read our Q&A with Zoje Stage here 

 


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